This isn’t a lesson; it is the notes from which I will prepare a lesson.
Note: I’m following the lesson outline the Gospel Doctrine manual uses (Lesson #3: 1 Nephi 8-11, 12:16-18, 15 and Lesson #4: 1 Nephi 12-14), but I won’t be teaching it that way. In the past, I’ve never found it possible to get past chapter 8 anyway, so it is a moot point for me, but even if I could cover more material, I think it is better to consider Nephi’s experience (1 Nephi 11-15) in its entirety. I have no idea why they decided to separate 1 Ne 12-14; I think it is counterproductive to try to understand those chapters outside of their native context in Nephi’s vision. This article, particularly the second section, explains why.
Write on the board:
strait=narrow (could be crooked)
straight=not crooked (could be broad)
1 And it came to pass that we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind.
Is this a deliberate allusion to the creation account in Genesis?
I can’t help but feel that instead of a throw-away line, this is somehow the interpretive key to the vision. This article suggests that you can’t gather seeds without eating fruit, so this becomes a real-world link to Lehi’s vision; one where L&L have been eating fruit, and in a context where they likely would have understood that their future physical survival depended on eating the fruit. This experience would have involved eating fruit but with a focus on seeds, whereas Lehi’s vision is focused on eating fruit with no mention of seeds. Why might that be? (It might work well to start class with v2 and then read this verse after studying the vision. At that point, ask the class what difference v1 makes and then discuss the paragraph above.)
2 And it came to pass that while my father tarried in the wilderness he spake unto us, saying: Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.
How will this vision compare to his previous ones?
I’m going to ask my class as we read to just stick to the text of Lehi’s vision and not, at this point, incorporate insights that they get either from Nephi’s vision or from Nephi’s later explanations to his brothers. I think this is important because (1) it honors the way the BoM is structured and (2) the visions are different and serve different purposes, and so it is helpful at this point to take them separately. But we’ll integrate next week!
How is your interpretation of the vision affected by the fact that the vision is presented in the context of Lehi sharing it with his family, and not just the vision itself?
3 And behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam; for I have reason to suppose that they, and also many of their seed, will be saved.
(How) does this relate to the “seed” reference in v1?
We’ll learn later that partaking of the fruit doesn’t guarantee salvation (because some of the partakers are later ashamed and wander off). So what are we to make of this conclusion?
It’s interesting that Lehi here speaks of being “saved.” What does he mean by this term? Should this be understood in a strong soteriological sense—saved from death and hell, etc.? Or does it have a more down-to-earth meaning—saved, say, from the destruction of Jerusalem. Citation
4 But behold, Laman and Lemuel, I fear exceedingly because of you; for behold, methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness.
Skousen omits “in my dream” from the most likely original reading. How would you understand the verse differently without those words?
Should we be concerned that Lehi’s communication of this vision to his sons functions as a sort of predestination? That is, could it have left them feeling that they had no choice in the matter? (The same could apply to Nephi and Sam in the previous verse.)
Why is Sariah mentioned in neither v3 nor v4?
Shouldn’t the “behold” be followed by either “I have reason to suppose that you wouldn’t be saved” or “because you didn’t eat the fruit” to parallel the previous verse? Does Lehi leave open why he is afraid or is he afraid because of the dark and dreary wilderness? The latter might work grammmatically, but is somewhat odd in that *Lehi* was in the wilderness, not (just) his sons.
It is probably fair to say that Lehi is currently, in real life, living in a dark and dreary wilderness and v1 told us that his family (presumably all of them?) were partaking of fruit. How do Lehi’s actual circumstances relate to the vision?
Was Lehi commanded to convey this information, or was this his choice? If so, was it a mis-step? Was he sowing problems by dividing his boys this way? (Any parenting expert today would tell you never to compare your kids.)
NB joy in v3 and fear here. Are these the emotions that we would have expected? Do we consider fear and joy opposites? Should we?
What is accomplished–either for the boys or for the reader–by relating the impact that the dream had on Lehi before relating its content?
Does “methought” mean “I thought but perhaps I was wrong”? The only other use of “methought” in scripture is Alma 36:22, which refers to a vision of Lehi’s (but not this one).
Lehi did not directly address Nephi and Sam in the previous verse but speaks directly to L&L here. Is that significant?
5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.
Why man and not angel? Are we being asked to assume that this is a mere mortal, or should we assume otherwise?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. . . . Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times. When in Lehi’s dream he found himself in a frightening place, “a dark and dreary waste,” as he described it, he was met by an angel, “a man … dressed in a white robe; … he spake unto me,” Lehi said, “and bade me follow him.”Lehi did follow him to safety and ultimately to the path of salvation. In the course of life all of us spend time in “dark and dreary” places, wildernesses, circumstances of sorrow or fear or discouragement. Our present day is filled with global distress over financial crises, energy problems, terrorist attacks, and natural calamities. These translate into individual and family concerns not only about homes in which to live and food available to eat but also about the ultimate safety and well-being of our children and the latter-day prophecies about our planet. More serious than these—and sometimes related to them—are matters of ethical, moral, and spiritual decay seen in populations large and small, at home and abroad. But I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself. Oct 2008 GC.
It is interesting to me that (1) he reads the man as an angel and (2) that he suggests that this sort of divine aid is the norm, not the exceptional expereince.
Read Rev 6:11, 7:9, 13-14, JS-H 1:31-32. These are the only other scriptural references to “white robe.” (Although, more generally, there are some other similar situations.) What do you conclude?
Though there have been other interpretations of whom the man in the white robe represents in Lehi’s dream, from a messenger to a Christ-figure to Moses, I believe that John the Revelator is one important possibility. Citation
What I find more interesting here than trying to peg down who the mysterious man in the white robe was (I think settling on John the Revelator is too speculative) is this question: why aren’t we just told who it was?
6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.
Why don’t we get the man’s direct speech? Did the man say more than “follow me”?
7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
Is this “waste” different from the dark and dreary wilderness in v4? (These are the only scriptural references to “dark and dreary.”)
Are we to draw a contrast between the white robe and the dark waste? If so, what would be conclude?
An excellent example of reversal occurs when Lehi finds himself in “a dark and dreary wilderness,” a guide in a white robe appears, and Lehi follows him to “a dark and dreary waste” (see 1 Nephi 8:4—7). We expect Lehi’s guide to bring him to a place of light and safety, but instead the prophet is taken to yet another dark and dreary place. What kind of deliverance figure, clothed in the powerful symbol of a white robe, would take a prophet from one dark place to another?” Citation
8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
We always rush past the “many hours.” Pause for a moment to think about how terrifying it would be to travel for many hours in the dark. What should we learn from this?
What do you think Lehi was feeling during this time? Why did the Lord put Lehi through this uncomfortable experience? Is it punitive?
What happened to the man in the white robe? Is he no longer there–and that’s why Lehi has to pray to the Lord? Or is “praying to the Lord” the same as “asking the man in the white robe”?
We’ll later find out that people who try to travel in the dark (or: is that different because it is a mist?) get lost. Does that happen to Lehi here? I’ve seen some semi-critical commentary of this vision for not picturing repentance (it does seem that once you get lost, you’re toast), but I am wondering if it would be legitimate to read this verse as Lehi’s return to the path through prayer (even though no sin is implied, or is it?).
Why is “mercy” what is needed here? Is “mercy” the same as “light” or “guidance”?
9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.
Do you conclude that the field is an example of the Lord’s tender mercies?
What might the field symbolize? Is this related to the references about the field being white and ready to harvest?
Mosiah 11:8-9 and Ether 10:5 are the only times outside of Lehi/Nephi’s vision that “spacious” is used in the scriptures; both refer to buildings made by the wicked. Is the field evil? Neutral? Good? Why is it described as ‘spacious’ and what does that mean, given that other scriptural uses of ‘spacious’ are negative?
What does this verse teach you about what you can expect from prayer?
Not much is done with “the field;” our attention quickly shifts to the tree and remains there. Why mention the field at all? Why not just behold the tree?
10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
How does this tree relate to the tree of knowledge of good and evil and/or the tree of life?
How does Lehi know that the fruit is desireable?
“Happy” is interesting. Not a lot of scriptures about happiness per se. (Some modern translations use happy instead of blessed in the beatitudes.) Happy seems a little . . . tepid . . . to me.
The fruit is symbolic (right?). What does it symbolize?
Alma 32:39 is the only other scriptural reference to desirable fruit. How does that story relate to this one?
It is hard to avoid comparing this verse with Genesis 3:6 (“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”) What do you make of the similarities and differences between these two stories?
11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
NB that ‘partake’ is not used in the KJV.
W1828 partake: “To take a part, portion or share in common with others; to have a share or part.” Why focus on the communal nature of the fruit here?
Was he commanded to do this or did it just seem like the right thing to do?
I think it’s significant that once he gets to the tree, Lehi finds something small, round, and white to press to his lips in a gesture not at all unlike that of Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Remember that Isaiah there, in what I argued in my “preliminaries” post is a crucial text for Nephi’s record, has a white stone taken from the altar of incense pressed to his lips, thus giving him to join the seraphic throng in singing and shouting praises to God enthroned. Lehi has something of the same experience here, and it is a clear echo of 1 Nephi 1, where we similarly see Lehi being given to ascend into heaven, through the mediation of an angelic figure (with a book, rather than a stone), so that he can shout praises along with the angels surrounding the throne of God. Citation
Note that he just “goes forth,” nothing about a rod, path, mists, etc. Why is his trip to the fruit so much less complicated than it will be for other people in this vision?
Before he tastes the fruit, he knows that it will make him happy. After he tastes it, he notes that it is sweet and white. Shouldn’t he have been able to note that it is white *before* he tastes it? I am wondering if [symbolically] only the inside is white and the outside is a different color. And how did he know about ‘happy’ before he tasted it? It seems that the whiteness of the fruit would be noticed first, since he would see it before he tastes it. Why does he tell us how it tastes before he tells us how it looks?
(Why) are sweet and white used as proxies for happy?
Virtually all OT references to “sweet” refer to the smell of the ceremonial incense, which is generally symbolic of prayer. Is that relevant here?
In the NT, Rev 10:9-10 refers to a sweet taste (“And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”). Is that relevant here?
Is Alma 32:42 (“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.) relevant here?
Does the whiteness of the fruit tie it to the white robe?
Why privilege taste and sight above other senses here?
Other combos of “exceed” and “white” include JS-H 1:31-32, Mark 9:3, 1 Ne 13:15, 2 Ne 5:21, and Ether 3:1. Do any of those passages nuance your understanding of this one?
12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.
Skousen reads “desirous” instead of “desirable” here. Does it make a difference in your understanding of the verse?
Why do sweet and white lead to joy?
Is joy different from happiness? I think you could make the case that, before he tasted it, he knew that it would lead to happiness, but only after did he realize that it would lead to joy, and that these are not the same thing. I think Alma 27:18 (“Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.”) is interesting here, because it suggests that seeking happiness can lead to joy. We might also link this to the desire for his family to partake–when he thought the fruit just made you happy, he wasn’t focused on sharing it with his family. But now that he knows that it leads to joy, he is compelled to share it. I wonder if we might also tie this in to Eve’s experience: is it fair to say that she thought beforehand that eating the fruit would have a certain effect but it actually had something a little different? I also am thinking that he didn’t realize that it was desireable above all other fruit until after he had eaten it.
I like to experiment with new recipes and I am frequently amazed at the results: sometimes I think something will rock, and I can barely eat it. Other times I have pretty low expectations, but a dish knocks my socks off. You just can’t know until you taste it . . .
What’s with all of the superlatives?
Elder Richard G. Scott:
When in a dream Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree of life and was filled with joy, his first thought was to share it with each member of his family, including the disobedient. April 1988 GC.
I like the “including the disobedient” there. I think too often we treat it as our role to exclude the disobedient, to be sure that they are adequately punished for their choices.
Marion D. Hanks:
I conceive this to be the simplest and most understandable of human emotions. That which is beautiful and good and satisfying to the soul is infinitely more so when shared with those we love. I believe this is the foundation of the missionary work of the Church, of the Primary program and the genealogical program and the serviceman’s program, and every other effort made by the Church to lift and inspire and strengthen the individual child of God. Oct 1961 GC.
I love that.
13 And as I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also, I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit.
I think “cast . . . eyes . . . round about” may be a technical phrase in the BoM with a connotation of spiritual eyes opening. It doesn’t seem to always work this way, but many references suggest something more than just “looking over there.” If my hunch is right, then I think we can’t avoid the conclusion that “Lehi’s eyes were now opened as a result of partaking of the fruit.” Additionally, he is casting his eyes in order to “discover his family,” and it is the opening of Eve’s eyes that makes it possible for her to have children (right?). Further, despite the fact that we ignore those verses, the rivers in the creation story get a ton of airtime (=verses), and look, folks, we’ve got a river here, too. In which case, we can’t avoid comparing this story with Eve’s experience. Some thoughts on that: What happens by changing the gender of the eater? How does Sariah’s role in the dream compare with Adam’s role in the garden? Where’s Satan in Lehi’s dream? Does the fruit symbolize the same thing in both visions? In what other ways are Lehi’s and Eve’s experiences similar and different? Following this analogy, are L&L and Nephi readable as Cain and Abel?
Thoughts about the river here.
What does the river symbolize? What about the river in the New Jerusalem at the end of the book of Revelation?
Given that he was actually looking for his family, does seeing the river constitute some sort of a fail?
Is the running of the river and/or its nearness to the tree significant?
14 And I looked to behold from whence it came; and I saw the head thereof a little way off; and at the head thereof I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi; and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go.
Is this a criticism of the faith of Sariah, Sam, and Nephi? How else could you read it?
Why “your mother”? Don’t they know that?
Why are they unsure about where to go? (Lehi wasn’t.)
15 And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.
This seems unusually participatory for a dream/vision. Why is it that way?
Why the loud voice?
16 And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.
Is it significant that they came unto -Lehi- and not the tree?
Again, there’s no path, rod, or mists for them. Why?
Lehi partook because of his assessment that the fruit would make him happy. They partake because Lehi told him to. Is this significant? And, getting back to the garden, is it significant that Eve partook because of an assessment of the fruit and Adam partook because Eve told him to?
17 And it came to pass that I was desirous that Laman and Lemuel should come and partake of the fruit also; wherefore, I cast mine eyes towards the head of the river, that perhaps I might see them.
So they are near S, S, and N. Why didn’t he see them in v14?
Is Lehi’s attitude toward L&L the same as our attitude toward L&L?
18 And it came to pass that I saw them, but they would not come unto me and partake of the fruit.
Does he extend the same invitation that he did in v15? If so, why isn’t it narrated? If not, why not?
Why won’t they come?
Lehi’s desire to give the tree’s fruit to his family is duly famous. But the role it plays in the unfolding of Lehi’s dream is almost universally overlooked. It is specifically in looking for his family that Lehi begins to see more of his surroundings, beginning to see the terrain—the difficult terrain—he has just passed through. . . . They’re interested, it seems, in neither the valley of Lemuel (preferring to stay in Jerusalem—echoes, here, of 1 Nephi 7) nor the privilege of ascension into the presence of God (“a visionary man,” they’ve complained before). . . . what readers tend to fail to notice is that it’s specifically the refusal on the part of Laman and Lemuel that expands Lehi’s vision beyond the bounds of his family. It’s just when they refuse to come that he begins to see more, far more, than just the basic surroundings of the tree. He now begins to see not only a much larger stage with many more props, but whole multitudes of people begin to appear in the scene. . . . it’s important only to recognize that it’s Laman and Lemuel who draw Lehi’s attention to the way others, apparently non-familial others, relate to the fruit he’s tasted in the wake of listening to the prophets. Citation
19 And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.
The rod, which is such a crucial element of the vision from that point on, does not even exist for Lehi and his family when they are making their way to the tree. (One might argue that perhaps the rod exists but Lehi simply does not see it. However, this is a dream—a vision—not reality. If the viewer of the vision does not see something in the vision, then it does not exist as a part of the vision.) Citation.
Is (one of the) purpose(s) of the rod to keep people from falling in the river?
Is the discovery of the rod in any way related to what comes immediately before it, which is L&L’s refusal to listen to Lehi?
The term rod of iron is found in Psalm 2:9 and in three passages in the book of Revelation. The first of these (Revelation 2:27) paraphrases the Psalm, while the others (Revelation 12:5; 19:15) build on it. All of them imply that the rod is a symbol of ruling power. In the Old Testament, the rod is typically used to chastise children and wrongdoers (2 Samuel 7:14; Proverbs 13:24; 29:15). . . . Anciently, the rod was used both for correction and for gentle guidance. . . . The shepherd’s rod was a weapon, normally a piece of wood with a knob at one end. With it, he could defend the flock from predators. It was also used to count the sheep at day-end (Leviticus 27:32; Ezekiel 20:37). The staff was a long walking stick, sometimes with a crook at the top. It could also be used for handling sheep, including separating sheep and goats. . . . The use of the rod or staff as a symbol of rule is mentioned in a number of Bible passages (Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 14:5; Jeremiah 48:17; Ezekiel 19:11—12, 14; cf. D&C 85:7). The Israelite crown prince Jonathan, son of king Saul, carried a rod (1 Samuel 14:27, 43). Ezekiel 19:11 equates rods with scepters. In Numbers 24:17, the scepter of the Messiah is symbolically used to smite Israel’s enemies. Later Jewish tradition indicates that possession of the rod denotes rule over the world (Midrash Ba-Midbar Rabbah 13:14). It is interesting that when Laman and Lemuel were stopped from beating their younger brothers Sam and Nephi with a rod, the angel said to them, “Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?” (1 Nephi 3:29; cf. 1 Nephi 2:22; 2 Nephi 5:19). It is possible that the elder brothers deliberately selected the rod to punish their brother to symbolize their claim to ruling authority in the family. Compare the story in Numbers 17:2—10, where Aaron’s authority as high priest in Israel was established by the miraculous blossoming of his rod. . . . The use of a rod to represent words or speech is found in Proverbs 10:13 and 14:3. In other passages, it refers specifically to the word of God. In Isaiah 30:31, “the voice of the Lord” is contrasted with the rod of the Assyrians. In a few passages, the rod is compared to a covenant with God which, like a rod, can be broken (Ezekiel 20:37; Zechariah 11:10, 14). Citation
(How) do these biblical uses of the rod shape your view of the rod here? (How) do you think they shaped Lehi’s view?
Later in 11:25, we will find out that the rod of iron is “the word of God.” To what extent is it appropriate to import that meaning into this chapter?
What is the word of God: the scriptures, the spoken word of God, or Jesus Christ? Here’s a link to all of the scriptural references to word of God.My sense is that in the BoM, ‘word of God’ is roughly synonymous with “gospel,” not “written scriptures.” Luke 8:11 is also interesting (“The seed is the word of God.”).
20 And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.
For whether this should read straight or strait, see here, here, here, here, and here. Skousen goes with “straight” here. Which do you think is right, and how does it affect your interpretation of the vision? How might it apply to your life?
I think we usually read the rod as something that helps you stay on the path, but I think you can read this verse to suggest that the path is something that develops when people have been walking along holding the rod. How would this impact your interpretation of the vision?
Again, was the path there when Lehi went to the tree, or does it appear now?
Is this the same field Lehi was in before?
W1828 fountain: “A spring, or source of water; properly, a spring or issuing of water from the earth.”
Does the “as if” language mean that it is not a/the world? Does the “it” in that phrase refer to the field, or the entire scene?
If we look at this moment of Lehi’s vision through Nephi’s later comments—according to which the rod is the word of God, which we usually interpret as the scriptures—there’s a really nice little lesson in here. The pathway to the celestial kingdom is not self-sufficient; it only serves if one is quite as attentive to the scriptures as to the path itself. Still better, one might conclude that the path is only the worn ground where those clinging to the scriptures have trod; it’s nothing in itself. Thus, to seek the path alone—to attempt just to “live a good life” or just to “serve others” or just to “do what we’re expected,” etc.—is to run into major difficulties. It’s only those who are buried in scripture who actually make it to eternal life, because they alone can feel their way through the mystifying darkness of the philosophies of men, etc.
I like this little lesson for a lot of reasons, but I want to stick to Lehi’s vision on its own terms, not to turn too quickly to what Nephi has to say about the dream. To be a bit more minimalist, then: the crucial point is just to subordinate the path to the rod. It’s the rod that leads to the tree, and the path is more incidental than anything. To seek the path is to set oneself up for disaster, because it leads through mists of darkness before it arrives at the tree. One might thus say that the path is itself a kind of temptation, a distraction, a simulacrum of the way to the tree. Citation
21 And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.
Does “numberless” allude to the promises re Abraham’s descendants?
W1828: concourse “A moving, flowing or running together; confluence; as a fortuitous concourse of atoms; a concourse of men.” (I didn’t get the idea of movement until I read that definition; I saw them as stationary, with only some pressing forward. Now I am thinking that they are -all- moving, but only some are -moving forward.-)
Why is the path something you have to “obtain”? Isn’t it obvious?
Does the “they” who might obtain the path just refer to the people pressing forward, or to everyone? Is there any indication in this verse as to what makes the difference between those who are part of the numberless and those who press forward?
We saw the phrase “numberless concourses” in 1 Nephi 1:8. Is that passage relevant here?
22 And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.
Was it Lehi’s calling out to S, S, and N that caused this, or is that coincidental? What causes this to happen?
23 And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.
W1828: mist: “Water falling in very numerous, but fine and almost imperceptible drops. That which dims or darkens, and obscures or intercepts vision.” In other words, a dark fog.
Does the mist arise as a response to people seeking the path?
What does this verse teach us about opposition? (My thought: good intentions are not enough.)
Boyd K. Packer:
The mist of darkness will cover you at times so much that you will not be able to see your way even a short distance ahead. You will not be able to see clearly. But you can feel your way. With the gift of the Holy Ghost, you can feel your way ahead through life. Grasp the iron rod, and do not let go. Citation
Neal A. Maxwell:
A few who have not been Saints, but merely tourists passing through, will depart from the path. Oct 1982 GC.
So there is a point to which you can walk on the path without the iron rod and be OK, but once that mist of darkness shows up, you have to use the rod. What does this imply about the symbolism of the path, which seems to be a somewhat neglected topic in the interpretation of the vision? My guess would be that it is “traditional religion,” by which I mean not a specific religious tradition, but rather being religious because it is traditional. That kind of religion can keep you on the path in easy times, but when temptations arise, it is not enough.
Ezra Taft Benson:
When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod. Apr 1989 GC.
Only other scriptural references to mist outside of this vision:
Acts 13:11: And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
2 Peter 2:17: These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
3 Nephi 8:22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.
Moses 3:6 But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
Abraham 5:6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
Are they related to the mist in this vision?
Is this mist from the filthy water? If so, what would that symbolize?
24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
What distinguishes these people from those in v23, by which I mean: why are these guys and gals able to reach the rod despite the mist but the last group wandered off?
‘Clinging’ is not used elsewhere in the scriptures (‘cling’ is in D&C 122:6). It would seem that the clinging is a good thing, since their attachment to the rod distinguishes themselves from the people in v23 who wander off. And yet, come v25, they fail. So was the clinging bad? Does clinging mean that you regard the rod as an end in itself?
What does the image of clinging to the rod and moving through a dark mist convey to you?
Lehi sees that they are “clinging” to the rod of iron. In such a dark setting you might expect people to be holding hands. But nothing is said of people clinging together. No person is leading another by the hand. Maybe the significance of this is that the rod of iron, or as we learn later, the word of God, must be grasped directly, individually, of our own choice. We must know the truth for ourselves. Others can “beckon” us, as Lehi did his family, but we each need to grasp the word of God individually if we are to press forward. Citation
25 And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
What causes this?
I would have thought that after you ate the fruit you were “done” or “safe.” What does it mean to say that you can still mess up after eating the fruit? Is this a hint as to what the fruit symbolizes?
Is there a link to the creation account, where eating the fruit leads to the shame of nakedness?
Wouldn’t you think that knowing the taste of the fruit would prevent you from being swayed by the reaction of others? Since that is apparently not the case, what are we to learn from this?
The way v26 reads, it is almost as if Lehi doesn’t notice the building and its inhabitants until the people in v25 do–or *because* the people in v25 do. Why is this?
26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
The most difficult image is the building standing in the air – “high above the earth.” It appears likely that the building is shown detached from the “world” because the large and spacious field in which Lehi stands is representative of the larger path to celestialization, and the building has no part in that. It is visible to it, it obviously can effect it, but has no true place in the world of the tree. Citation
Boyd K. Packer:
Largely because of television, instead of looking over into that spacious building, we are, in effect, living inside of it. That is your fate in this generation. You are living in that great and spacious building. Citation
Is it useful to think of this as an anti-temple?
Is the point that the building has no foundation? If so, what does that mean?
Do we assume that a “mist” would be low to the ground and, if so, does that have any relationship to the fact that the building appears high above the earth? If so, what is that relationship and what does it symbolize? Is the point that people surrounded by mist but no path or rod can see nothing but the building? (These questions poached from here.)
How can Lehi apprehend that the building is in the air? That is, shouldn’t the mist make it impossible for him to tell what the first floor of the building looks like?
President Thomas S. Monson:
The great and spacious building in Lehi’s vision represents those in the world who mock God’s word and who ridicule those who embrace it and who love the Savior and live the commandments (“May You Have Courage,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2009, 126).
What does the standing in the air (or: as it were iin the air) symbolize?
Is the shift from ‘field’ to ‘earth’ significant here?
Is Lehi’s eye casting different from the eye casting in v25? If so, how and how do you know?
How do people get in the building if it doesn’t touch the ground? How does a building with no foundation stand up? Shouldn’t people be afraid to enter it? Are they?
Elder L. Tom Perry:
The current cries we hear coming from the great and spacious building tempt us to compete for ownership in the things of this world. Oct 1995 GC.
27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
Skousen reads “came up” instead of “come at” here. Does that imply that the tree is higher up than the surrounding area? Or is it more metaphorical?
Boyd K. Packer:
All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Let me say that again: All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Be careful that you do not fall into the category of mocking. Citation
There aren’t too many shout-outs to the ladies in the BoM (although Sariah has been mentioned in this vision); why is this one here?
Do the other BoM references (link here) shape your view of why “female” was included here? Why emphasize the diversity of the inhabitants of the building?
Boyd K. Packer:
One word in this dream or vision should have special meaning to you young Latter-day Saints. The word is after. It was after the people had found the tree that they became ashamed, and because of the mockery of the world they fell away. . . . At your baptism and confirmation, you took hold of the iron rod. But you are never safe. It is after you have partaken of that fruit that your test will come. Citation
The only thing that unifies these people is their dress, and attention is called to this fact. What does this symbolize?
Why don’t they go about their own business? Why do they bother paying attention to the fruit eaters?
Is the point that partaking of the fruit is public? Is the point that it irritates wealthy people?
L. Tom Perry:
Many of you are trying too hard to be unique in your dress and grooming to attract what the Lord would consider the wrong kind of attention. In the Book of Mormon story of the tree of life, it was the people whose “manner of dress was exceedingly fine” who mocked those who partook of the fruit of the tree. It is sobering to realize that the fashion-conscious mockers in the great and spacious building were responsible for embarrassing many, and those who were ashamed “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” Citation
Neal A. Maxwell:
Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. . . . Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders. Citation
How does their dress compare with the man in the white robe?
Lehi was mocked as he preached in Jrsm. Is that relevant here?
Does the pointing fingers (used nowhere else in scripture) show an example of mocking, or is it something other than mocking? What might it be?
If they are mocking those eating the fruit, why did they eat the fruit and then be ashamed later? Why did they just not eat it in the first place?
What do these people gain from the finger pointing and the mocking? Why aren’t they just doing their own thing?
Though I’m not aware of anyone having offered this interpretation, it seems more than obvious to me: the building in question is the Jerusalem temple. Jeremiah had for years, by this point, been profoundly criticizing the institution of the temple, in particular criticizing the blind faith the people had in it—their conviction that, because they had a temple, Babylon could never destroy the city. It would certainly be fitting that the temple would be filled with the wealthy, and that it was precisely the wealthy establishment who would spend their time mocking those who attain the tree. They mock those who claim to have seen through the veil without having been inside the temple, as they mock those who would leave Jerusalem for the desert to escape from a destruction decreed by “visionary men.” . . . For Latter-day Saints acquainted with the sorts of covenants one makes in the temple, the association of the temple with wealth and excess, not to mention mockery and loud laughter, should be a bit shocking. I suspect the author of the dream—God, that is—meant it to be a bit shocking, though it was probably also quite accurate. I can only hope it’s not accurate today. Same source.
28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
Is scoffing just a variation? Why not use mocking here?
This verse is out first indication that there is a path that you have to stay on *after* you eat the fruit. (How) does this change our understanding of the symbolism of the fruit?
Is it fair to say that people who haven’t (yet) eaten the fruit are spared the mocking?
Going back to the Fall, is there a parallel to the mocking in Eve’s experience? If so, what is it?
Why would shame put you on the wrong path? Why would lack of shame keep you on the right path?
What makes a path forbidden? Are there signs? Does the process of feeling shame obscure one’s ability to heed the signs?
Notice the word “fell” in this verse. Is this a reference to the fall?
Joseph B. Wirthlin:
The ideal course of life is not always easy. Comparatively few will find it and complete it. It is not a well-marked freeway, but a narrow path with only one entrance. The way to eternal life is straight and narrow. When I think of staying on the right path, I am reminded of Lehi’s dream about the tree of life. In it, the love of God was likened to a tree that bore delicious fruit, fruit that was desirable above all others. As Nephi recorded his father’s words: “And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree. … And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree.” (1 Ne. 8:20–21.) Many of these people later “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” (1 Ne. 8:28.) But those who ignored the scoffing and ridicule of the world and held tightly to the rod of iron enjoyed the fruit of the tree. The rod of iron represents the word of God, that leads us to the love of God. (See 1 Ne. 11:25.) You must hold firmly to the rod of iron through the mists and darknesses, the hardships and trials of life. If you relax your grip and slip from the path, the iron rod might become lost in the darkness for a time until you repent and regain your grasp of it. Oct 1989 GC.
So compared to the v23 people, are these guys better off or worse off?
Why is this the first we are hearing of forbidden paths?
29 And now I, Nephi, do not speak all the words of my father.
Why not, Nephi?
Why “speak” and not “write,” especially since he uses “write” in the next verse?
Given v30, I can’t help but feel that it is the 4 Nephi principle at work: if everything is going well, we don’t/won’t have a lot to say about it.
30 But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
This is what we have seen so far, except that they “hold fast” instead of “cling” and they “fell down” before they partake. In what ways might those changes be significant?
Is “fell down” the necessary opposite to “fell away” in v28?
Falling down usually is related to worship; is that the case here? If so, what are they worshipping? Did Lehi do this?
31 And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.
Skousen reads “pressing” instead of “feeling” here. That is, I think, a pretty significant change, since ‘press’ is in the previous verse and it suggests that pressing is a neutral action (could be used for good or ill) and removes the introduction of the concept of “feeling.”
What, no rod to get you to the building? Why not? You’d think that would be easier and better guided than getting to the tree.
This is the first group that we have met that have the building as a goal.
32 And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads.
So–is the fountain a bad thing? What does it symbolize? Is the fountain a symbol for Christ (a good, but not a tame, lion)?
Lost from whose view? Was the goal to stay in view? What might that symbolize?
Why is wandering bad?
Is there a significant distinction between the strange roads and the forbidden roads? Is there a distinction between roads and paths?
Ann M. Dibb:
Nephi says, “And many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads” (1 Nephi 8:32). In difficult times in our own lives, we may find we are also “wandering in strange roads.” Let me reassure you that it is always possible for us to find our way back. Through repentance, made possible by the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can regain and recommit to a strong grip on the iron rod and feel the loving guidance of our Heavenly Father once again. Oct 2009 GC.
33 And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.
Neal A. Maxwell:
So let us have patience and faith as did Lehi who saw pointing fingers of scorn directed at those who grasped the iron rod, which rod, ironically, some of those same fingers once grasped (see 1 Ne. 8:27, 33). Oct 1993 GC.
Nice pick up, since the only use of hands in this vision: holding the rod, eating the fruit, pointing.
If (v32) many were lost who were aiming for the building but many people made it, then there must have been a *lot* of people aiming for the building. Why? Why didn’t they have Lehi’s knowledge that the fruit would make them happy?
Is there a relationship between the strange road and the strange building?
W1828: strange: “Foreign; belonging to anther country.”
The eruption of “me” in this verse is interesting; all previous referents to Lehi had been in the third person. Why does this happen here?
W1828: heed: “To mind; to regard with care; to take notice of; to attend to; to observe.” One of my class members pointed this out and it was a lightbulb moment for me–I had always assumed that “heed” primarily meant “listen to/obey,” but the nuance of “notice” puts a different spin on it. What are you noticing (even if you are not obeying) that could cause you trouble?
“Finger of scorn” is not used elsewhere in the scriptures. It sounds like it should be a part of Festivus.
The vision sets up “be ashamed” and “ignore” as possible reactions to scorn. What might we learn from that?
Take some time to identify the four groups of people mentioned in the dream. Compare the characteristics of each of the groups. You will find
an interesting comparison between these groups and the four groups in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Citation.
Lehi’s dream can be divided into three fundamental experiences: that of Lehi (see 1 Nephi 8:5—13), his family (see vv. 14—18), and the world (see vv. 19—33). Citation
Does that division work for you?
Elements of the vision often seem to suddenly appear, without any hint of prior awareness of them and with no foreshadowing in the text. For example, Lehi is standing next to the tree of life but does not see the river until he is looking for his family, even though the river is next to the tree by which he is standing. Citation
Why is that? Is it just accidental to the visionary experience, or are we to learn from it?
Harold B. Lee:
An interesting distinction between those who bring forth good fruit and those who do not is well illustrated in the parable of the sower, as you recall, where the Master described the three categories of presumably church members—those who brought forth fruit—”some an hundredfold,” he said, “some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matt. 13:8). And in the interpretation of Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon, he has four categories. Apr 1964 GC.
Also, I think the simplest, most straightforward interpretation of 1 Nephi 8 has to be in terms of the family’s immediate situation: the tree and the river are where they are staying in the desert, the large and spacious building is Jerusalem or even the temple (as Jeremiah would have interpreted it), etc. Citation: comment #2
So here are the groups of people:
(1) numberless concourses (so: people moving randomly)
(2) some of (1) press forward, but when the mist arises, they wander off
(3) some of (1) press forward, cling to the rod and therefore reach the tree despite the mist, partake, are ashamed, forbidden paths, lost
(4) other multitudes (v30), hold fast, fall down, partake
(5) other multitudes (v31), feel for building. Some drown, some lost, some wander.
(6) (v33) enter building
(How) do these groups relate to Lehi’s family, who face different circumstances? And why are those circumstances different?
What modern situations would be represented by these groups? I think we all want to be in (4); what is the key to that?
34 These are the words of my father: For as many as heeded them, had fallen away.
Skousen reads “thus is” instead of “these are.” What difference would that make to this verse?
I presume that the “them” does not refer to “the words of my father,” but the “them” at the end of v33, or the people in the building. Why does Nephi find the need to insert “these are the words of my father,” especially given that it introduces an unfortunate ambiguity into the text? Since v33 was the words of his father, what is the purpose of reiterating that at the beginning of this verse? Presumably it is to call attention to it, but why?
To reiterate the point above, if “heed’ means notice, then simply “paying attention” is enough to cause you to fall away. It doesn’t need to rise to “obeying.” That is a powerful warning.
35 And Laman and Lemuel partook not of the fruit, said my father.
Which group were they in? Why doesn’t he tell us?
Why the “said my father”? We know, Nephi, we know.
36 And it came to pass after my father had spoken all the words of his dream or vision, which were many, he said unto us, because of these things which he saw in a vision, he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.
What in the vision led Lehi to conclude that not partaking of fruit = cast off from presence of Lord? (Particularly interesting when you make a comparison with Eve, for whom taking the fruit = cast out of the presence of the Lord.)
37 And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off; yea, my father did preach unto them.
The last reference to mercy was when Lehi prayed for it in the dark–(how) is that relevant here?
38 And after he had preached unto them, and also prophesied unto them of many things, he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord; and he did cease speaking unto them.
Why the last line–isn’t that a given?
Is it appropriate to analyze the BoM looking for parenting fails on Lehi’s part? If so, is there one here? Are v37-38 and v3-4 the right thing to do with wayward kids?
1 And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel, and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates.
Is it significant to the narrative that he was in the valley of Lemuel? Is that a point of contact with the field in the vision?
2 And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people; for the plates upon which I make a full account of my people I have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they are called the plates of Nephi, after mine own name; and these plates also are called the plates of Nephi.
Between “after my own name” and “also called the plates of Nephi,” I feel like Nephi is . . . a . . . little . . . slow.
What work is this verse doing? What effect does it have on the reader?
3 Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.
“Engraven” strikes me as a really important word in this verse–what does it accomplish?
Usually, we think of a ministry as being the ministry of a leader of some sort–what does Nephi mean by the ministry of my people?
4 Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.
Not only are v3-4 terribly redundant, but why do we need to know them? Won’t it be obvious when we read?
What does this verse tell us about dividing the world into ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ matters? Or about ‘religion’ and ‘politics’? Or about how we should keep our histories? Or think about the world?
5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
Moral: we don’t always know why we are commanded to do things.
How can he not know the purpose? Wouldn’t the Laban experience and surrounding dialogue have made the purpose of keeping a religious record 100% clear to him?
6 But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
Thinking about this (brief) chapter in its entirely, I am wondering why Nephi included it. Particularly given the utter lack of any discussion of writing/record keeping in the Bible, it stands out as a monument to the self-consciousness of Nephi. What purpose(s) does it serve?
1 And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry; wherefore, to proceed with mine account, I must speak somewhat of the things of my father, and also of my brethren.
This seems crazy: “I’m going to give my own account, but to do that I have to tell you about my father, which is exactly what I’ve been doing, except when I haven’t.”
Isn’t the “reign” and “ministry” combo exactly what he just said he wouldn’t do in the last chapter?
2 For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews—
“The words of his dream” is interesting because it had no direct speech in it.
What is the link–why go from the dream to the Jews?
3 That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem, and many be carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity; and after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance.
Did Lehi preach of the return to the people in Jrsm? Is there something about his vision that made the return apparent to him? If so, was that new knowledge to him?
What effect would this info have had on Sariah, L&L, Sam, and Nephi?
4 Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.
What is accomplished by labelling him a prophet first?
The juxtaposition of v3 and v4 makes it sound as if the Messiah would be involved in ending the Babylonian captivity, but the timeframe (600 years) makes this impossible. What is going on here?
“Messiah” and “Savior” are not the same word in Hebrew. Why does Nephi label Savior “other words” for Messiah?
Why is the timing (600 years) significant enough for it to have been revealed to Lehi and for Nephi to record it? Wouldn’t this information have been *much* more useful to the people in Jrsm than for the people going to the New World?
5 And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.
This time “Redeemer” instead of “Savior” is added to “Messiah.” Why? In OT usage, all of these words have different nuances; why do they get amalgamated here? On idea that seems plausible to me is that in the OT, there are various expectations (suffering servant, anointed one, etc.) that the majority of people do not expect to be fulfilled in one person, but in a variety of figures and that this is why many have a hard time recognizing who Jesus is. If that reading is correct (and I grant that it may not be), it would seem very significant that pretty much as soon as Lehi & Co. detach from the main body of the covenant people, he begins to preach to them in a way that would help them understand the unity in fulfillment of these various OT images.
6 Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
“Wherefore” = “for which reason.” What about v5 leads to this “wherefore”? What is the chain of logic? It almost reads as “because this redeemer will come, therefore all mankind was lost,” but that’s backwards. What is going on here?
Does the “lost” and “fallen” state refer to the various multitudes in the vision?
In the OT, a ‘redeemer’ was (usually) a family member who could ‘redeem’ one from debt (slavery). What does that word choice teach us about Lehi’s conception of this Redeemer?
7 And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—
Why would he have told his kids about this? What benefit would it be to them?
In the grand scheme of things, this really doesn’t seem important enough to warrant a mention 600 years in advance. Why include it (esp. considering v8 and the “much spake” at the end)?
8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
Why the specificity? And what happens to John’s agency when his very words are prophesied before his birth?
Is this “straight” and “path” related to the same concepts in the vision?
Is the crying meant to relate to Lehi’s loud voice used to call his family?
9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
What would “baptism” have meant to Lehi?
Skousen reads “spake that he should baptize” instead of “said that he should baptize.” I wonder if the speaker in that case could be John instead of Lehi?
10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.
Skousen reads “sin” instead of “sins.” That would be a very significant difference, and fit into the somewhat corporate view of this vision.
This is a HUGE emphasis on the role of John the Baptist, esp. when there is nothing here about Jesus’ mortal ministry (just the titles) or about Jesus’ mission or significance (except what we glean from the titles). Why?
One of Nephi’s favorite titles for Jesus Christ was “the Lamb of God.” Forty-four references to “the Lamb” appear in Nephi’s vision in 1 Nephi 11—14 alone. Citation
Possible meanings for Lamb of God:
(1) It refers to the Passover lamb (see Exodus 12).
(2) It refers to the sacrificial lamb (see Exodus 29:38?46).
(3) The lamb is a metaphor for the suffering servant of God (see Isaiah 53).
(4) Some post-Old Testament Jewish literature features a lamb that will destroy all evil in the last days (see also Revelation 7:17 and 17:14).
‘Lamb of God’ is the preferred title for Jesus in this vision. Why?
11 And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.
“Unbelief” is interesting here; what do you think Lehi meant by it? While there were various flavors of Judaism both in Lehi’s and in Jesus’ time, they usually tended to be characterized more by divergences in *practice* than in *belief*. Does this verse refer specifically to unbelief that Jesus was the Messiah, or to something more general?
In what sense did the resurrected Christ make himself manifest “by the Holy Ghost”?
Notice the differing roles of Jews and Gentiles in this verse. Why does Lehi make this distinction?
12 Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
Why would the fate of the Gentiles have been important to them?
Is “house of Israel” the same as or different from “the Jews” when Lehi and/or Nephi use those terms?
In the OT, the olive branch makes prominent appearances after the flood and perhaps also in the lampstand in the tabernacle/temple. See also Judges 9:8f, 1 Kings 6:31f, Ps 52:8. See also Romans 11:17f. What do you make of this reference here? Is this related to the tree in the vision?
13 Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
So their fate will mirror that of the Gentiles in v12. How would they have responded to that?
If “wherefore” is roughly synonymous with “therefore,” then how does this verse function as a “therefore” to the thoughts of v12?
If we follow the chronology, v11 got us to shortly after the Resurrection, v12 is ambiguous in timing, and v13 takes us backward to Lehi’s present. Does this seem logical? What is happening to the time sequence here?
“With one accord” is interesting. It is used primarily in Acts. Does its inclusion explain the temporal disjunct that I asked about above?
It doesn’t appear to be true that they went to the promised land “with one accord.” What work did that phrase do for Lehi, for Nephi (writing some years later), and for us?
“The Lord wants us scattered” is something of a bitter pill to hear. How do you think it affected Lehi, L&L, and Nephi’s self-awareness? What might it mean to us? What does it teach us about the Lord?
14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.
‘Lord’ is a new title here.
What does the multiple scatter/gather events in scripture teach us about the Lord, about ourselves, about community, and about the covenant? How are these teachings relevant in the age of social media?
The phrase “in fine” is used frequently in the BoM but not elsewhere. (I’m not counting references to “in fine linen” and the like.)
Checking W1828, “in fine”: “In the end or conclusion; to conclude; to sum up all.” If that is the meaning here, then it would be a pretty significant phrase, almost along the lines of “and thus we see.”
This verse seems to equate being grafted in with coming to a knowledge of the Messiah. Is that accurate? If so, what does that teach us about the scattering process?
15 And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.
Again with the self-conscious record keeper . . .
16 And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel.
See previous notes for possible significance of all of the tent references.
17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
This is first ‘Son of God’ reference. I’m captivated by the titles in this section–they seem to come fast and furious, they seem to build on each other, etc. What do you make of them?
What to make of see-hear-know?
Start paying attention to references to Nephi’s desires.
Ezra Taft Benson:
Nephi had listened to his father, had believed his father, but he wanted to know through the same source his father knew—revelation. Oct 1985 GC.
Do you think it is fair to say that Nephi doubted his father?
Nephi appears to be referring to his own times as “times of old” here. That’s unusual. But then in v19, he says that his times are *not* times of old. What does Nephi mean by these phrases?
18 For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
I’ve never understood “the same” line–it just doesn’t seem true on the face of it. How do you understand it?
Does this “way” relate to the “path” in the vision? Does the “foundation” relate to the building without a foundation?
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
Skousen reads “in this time” instead of “in these times.”
References to the mysteries of God.
In this verse Nephi says the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto those who diligently seek them. When referring to the mysteries of God, the verb unfolded is often used. See Jacob 4:18, Mosiah 8:19, Alma 40:3, and D&C 10:64.
What does it suggest about the mysteries of God if we say that they can be unfolded?
References to eternal round.
To me, “the same yesterday/today/forever” is NOT the same thing as having a course that is an eternal round. (Imagine the difference between someone sitting forever next to a track versus someone continually running around the track.) Yet Nephi treats these as functionally equivalent (I think). How do you resolve this paradox? What should this teach us about the Lord?
20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.
Direct address to the audience is exceedingly rare in the scriptures. NB especially the singular “man.” Why does it happen here?
Why ‘doings’ and not thoughts or beliefs (esp. given the reference to unbelief above)?
Why does “course is an eternal round” lead to a “therefore” statement about judgment? How does this verse relate to the one before it?
21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.
Again NB the verse begins with a ‘wherefore.’ What is the link to the previous verse?
I like “sought to do” as opposed to “have done.”
References to probation. NB one in D&C but all of the rest in the BoM. Is this not a biblical concept?
1. Trial; examination; any proceeding designed to ascertain truth; in universities, the examination of a student, as to his qualifications for a degree.
2. In a monastic sense, trial or the year of novitiate,which a person must pass in a convent, to prove his virtue and his ability to bear the severities of the rule.
3. Moral trial; the state of man in the present life, in which he has the opportunity of proving his character and being qualified for a happier state.
4. In America, the trial of a clergyman’s qualifications as a minister of the gospel, preparatory to his settlement. We say, a man is preaching on probation.
5. In general, trial for proof, or satisfactory evidence, or the time of trial.
Is probation identical in meaning with ‘mortal life’ or could it be something different? Do you think differently about your life if you think about it as being a “probation”?
“Unclean” would presumably have referred to ritual uncleanness under the Law of Moses. We might automatically think of it as being dirty in a physical sense. Would Nephi’s use of this word have had a different nuance for him, given the Law of Moses? What should this usage teach us about how to understand the law of Moses?
If you need a good story for youth for this verse, try Spencer V. Jones, Apr 2003 GC. He compares getting sprayed by a skunk to being “unclean.”
Henry B. Eyring:
And so Satan tempts with procrastination throughout our days of probation. Any choice to delay repentance gives him the chance to steal happiness from one of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father. We have all been tempted with that delay. We know from our own experience that President Spencer W. Kimball was right when he wrote, “One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination,” and then he defined it: “an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility now” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 48; emphasis in original). And so Satan works on both our desire to think we have no cause to repent and our desire to push anything unpleasant into the future. Oct 1999 GC.
22 And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.
Interesting reference to authority here–what to make of it? Why would he need authority to speak these things? Isn’t the alternative “not to mention them,” not “to deny them”?
1 For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.
Skousen adds the words “a mountain” before “which I never.”
The only OT references to ‘ponder’ are two proverbs referring to “pondering the path;” that makes a nice link to the vision.
W1828 ponder: “To weigh in the mind; to consider and compare the circumstances or consequences of an event, or the importance of the reasons for or against a decision.”
Why is it significant that Nephi had never seen this mountain before? (Especially in a redundant way.) Why is he on a mountain but his father was in a field? (Is this related to the fact that Lehi has a family drama, what we might call ‘on the ground,’ while Nephi has a historical overview, or a ‘bird’s-eye view’ that we might see from a mountaintop?)
Why doesn’t Nephi taste the fruit in this vision?
Marion G. Romney:
In addition, however, it may properly be said that prayer includes other means by which men address God. Nephi doesn’t use the word prayer in introducing his account of his great vision. He simply says: “After I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceeding high mountain.” (1 Ne. 11:1.) There is no doubt in my mind but that Nephi’s pondering was in essence a prayer. Apr 1978 GC.
Robert D. Hales:
Nephi gives a clear and compelling account of the process, which includes desiring, believing, having faith, pondering, and then following the Spirit. Let’s hear it as related by Nephi: “For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen [in a vision of the tree of life], and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, … the Spirit [spoke] unto me.” Oct 2003 GC.
Does this imply that he can’t know of the things his father did unless he has his own vision?
Generally, the Bible uses “heart” where we would use “head” or “mind” and uses “bowels” where we would use “heart.” Can you suss out what Nephi means by ‘heart’? Does it matter?
NB that Lehi never got any more specific than “man in a white robe” but here is it “the Spirit of the Lord.” Is that significant?
Why does Nephi bother to tell us that he had never been to this mountain before?
2 And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou?
Why does Nephi’s experience have back-and-forth dialogue with the Spirit, where Lehi didn’t?
Is this back-and-forth dialogue comparable in any useful way to Nephi’s conversation with the Spirit over the killing of Laban?
Nephi has already made several references to his desires. It seems to be an overriding theme of his vision. It also shows up in Lehi’s vision (see 1 Ne 8:12.) Why?
Why would the Spirit ask Nephi what he desired?
Julie B. Beck:
A friend of mine suggested that I start looking for questions that the Lord asks us in the scriptures and ponder them (see John S. Tanner, “Responding to the Lord’s Questions,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 26). Since then I have discovered many important questions such as “What desirest thou?” (1 Ne. 11:2) and “What think ye of Christ?” Matt. 22:42). I keep a list of those questions in the back of my scriptures. I often choose one to think about in quiet moments because pondering enlightens my mind that I “might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Apr 2004 GC.
3 And I said: I desire to behold the things which my father saw.
Why would he want this? Is it a righteous desire? Does v4 affect your answer to that question? If he believes his father, why does he want to see these things? Should we be asking for visions?
4 And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?
Why does the Spirit ask this?
What effect does this verse have on the reader? Should we know the answer already?
Why does the Spirit focus on the tree, and not more generally, “do you believe that your father really had a vision”?
5 And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.
Well then why does he want to see it himself?
6 And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.
Why the loud voice? Is it related to the loud voice that Lehi used in his vision?
Why praise the Lord for Nephi’s faith–shouldn’t he praise Nephi?
Note that the Spirit equates v5’s “all the words of my father” and/or the idea that Lehi saw the tree with “the Son of the most High God.” This is perhaps especially curious since Lehi’s vision did not directly involve the Son. What is going on here?
7 And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.
Did Nephi ask for a sign? Why is he given a sign? What role should signs serve?
Why does he get a preview of coming attractions? NB that Lehi gave us a preview of the consequence of his dream (joy and fear), but not its content. Did Lehi see the man descending? If not, why does Nephi? If so, why didn’t Nephi mention it? (Nephi tells us that he doesn’t record all that his father saw; is he leaving out the man descending–if so, why?)
Does this verse suggest that the descending man is or is not symbolized by the tree and/or fruit?
8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
Why the “look”? Lehi didn’t get that. Lehi didn’t get a guide (that we know about) either. Why the difference?
Is it the tree his father saw, or is it like the tree his father saw?
Lehi doesn’t mention the beauty of the tree; is it significant that Nephi does? Lehi described the fruit as exceedingly sweet and white but didn’t describe the tree. Nephi describes the tree itself as exceedingly white. Why the difference?
Jim F.: “Before Lehi saw the tree, he went through a dark and dreary space and a large and spacious field (1 Nephi 8:7-9). Why do you think those things are omitted from Nephi’s experience?”
Are any of these references to white/snow relevant here?
9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
Skousen adds “most” before “precious.”
Is whiteness a proxy for preciousness?
10 And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
Again? Why is this all about Nephi’s desire?
11 And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.
Did Lehi just automatically ‘get’ the interpretation of everything, but Nephi has to ask? If so, why?
Does this verse imply that the interpretation is not obvious? If so, what effect should that have on the reader?
What does the “as a man speaketh” mean and why does Nephi mention it?
Lehi leads with the idea that his guide is a man, why does Nephi mention it here? Is form of a man the same as a man?
Nephi’s vision, in fact, should impel any reader of the book toward figural interpretation, for it acts out the method: Nephi asks for and receives a vision of what Lehi saw; then, when he asks “to know the interpretation” of the brilliantly white and beautiful tree, the Spirit of the Lord responds not with explanation but with a series of visions—first, the “fair and white” virgin of Nazareth, then “the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms,” then “the Son of God going forth among the children of men,” his baptism and ministry, and climactically his being “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world,” so that, as in patristic Christian typology, the tree of the cross fulfills the figure of the tree in Eden (1 Ne. 11:8–9, 11, 13–15, 20, 24, 27–31, 33). Citation
Grant Hardy points out that we might have expected Nephi to “desire” to partake of the fruit in 11:10 (like his father did). So 11:11 is something of a surprise when he chooses knowledge over experience. At that point, the Spirit leaves and an angel takes over. This choice and consequences strikes me as enormously important, but I’m not sure what to make of it.
12 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
It sorta sounds like the Spirit is messin’ with Nephi, but I doubt that is right. What is going on here?
13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
Is this different from his father’s vision, or is Jrsm co-symbolic with the great and spacious building? Why the other cities? What are they?
NB that Nephi asked to know what the interpretation of the tree was and he is shown first a city and then a virgin. The virgin has the same characteristics as the tree (exceeding white). What does all this mean?
14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
What does it mean to say that the heavens opened? Does it mean that the heavens were not opened before this (I would have thought that they were)? Do any of these references help?
So this angel is not the Spirit mentioned before? Why the change?
Why does the angel ask about what he sees but the Spirit (of the Lord) asked about what he desired?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
Do we assume that virgin is used in the sense of “young woman” here, or do we assume that Nephi is able to ascertain (through spiritual intervention?) her actual status? Is all of the white/pure/fair business the way in which he is able to ascertain her actual status?
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
W1828 condescension: “Voluntary descent from rank, dignity or just claims; relinquishment of strict right; submission to inferiors in granting requests or performing acts which strict justice does not require.”
What motivates this question?
Gordon B. Hinckley:
Well did an angel ask a prophet who had foreseen these things in vision: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne. 11:16.) I suppose none of us can fully understand that—how the great Jehovah should come among men, his birth in a manger, among a hated people, in a vassal state. Apr 1978 GC.
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
This is on the short list as one of my all time favorite scriptures. I like Nephi’s attitude toward what he doesn’t know. He’s frank about it, he puts it in context, he doesn’t let it overshadow the things he does know. He doesn’t need to know everything to know something. Compare Moses 5:6-7.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
Skousen reads “the mother of God” instead of “the mother of the Son of God” here.
Does this answer the condescension question? Does it answer the interpretation of the tree question?
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
Nephi has also been carried away in the Spirit. Link?
“The space of a time” is a singularly vague phrase–why include it? Is there any relation here to the space of time that Lehi spends in the dark?
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
Does this vision affect your interpretation of Mary’s story as found in Luke? Does it affect your thinking about the idea of “preordination”? In what sense did Mary have any choice in response to the angel if Nephi had seen this event 600 years before it happened?
What do v19-20 have to say about our desire to know more about the circumstances of the child’s conception?
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
Skousen reads “even the Eternal Father” instead of “even the Son of the Eternal Father.”
So all of this (city-virgin-child) is supposed to explain the tree?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
How did city-virgin-child explain that the tree was the love of God?
Only other scriptural combo of shed/abroad/love is Romans 5:5 (“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”), which also links in the concept of not being ashamed. The image of love shedding is interesting–what to make of it?
Very interesting: “Nephi and His Asherah”
So if we think about Lehi’s vision, we need to conclude that the love of God is something that you have to seek and choose to partake of, and that it is most desireable. That some people don’t even want it; that large numbers of people who are actively looking for it will wander off and not get it; that people who do partake of it might feel ashamed; that the building occupants make fun of people who partake of it. Is this how you normally think of the love of God? (I have to confess that I normally think of the love of God as free and easily available, there for everyone, and reaches out to you the very second you make the teeniest effort to get it. This vision causes me to reconsider that.)
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
NB that joy and desire are linked here. What are the implications of that?
24 And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him.
Lehi didn’t see this (that we know of), but the people falling at the tree before partaking is close. Are these related?
25 And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.
In Lehi’s vision, it seemed that the fountain was opposite the tree. Here, it seems that they are in the same place. Also, this is the first time that the tree is called the tree of life. What effect does that have on the reader?
How do you read the ‘or’ between “fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life”: does it means that the tree renames the fountain, or that the rod leads to one or the other place? And what are the implications of that, especially of a rod leading to two places?
Why have two things representing one thing?
Possible word play on rod and word explored here.
So the water AND the tree represent the love of God? Why this dual symbol?
If the tree is the love of God, why would people not want to partake of that? Why would people be ashamed of partaking of that?
Why do you think that Nephi doesn’t mention the contrasting river of filthy water in this part of his account, though he seems to have seen it? (Compare 1 Nephi 8:13 and 1 Nephi 15:26-29.) Do you think that Nephi saw, as Lehi did, his family in his vision? (Compare 1 Nephi 8:14-18.) If so, why doesn’t he mention them? If not, why not?
If the tree is the love of God, how does that relate to the tree of knowledge of good and evil? The tree of life in the Garden? The tree in Alma 32? The tree in the New Jrsm at the end of Revelation?
This article reads the tree of life as a symbol for Christ and also of the temple. If you read the tree as a symbol for Christ, then is partaking of the fruit a symbol of taking the sacrament?
26 And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
Why are we circling back to that?
27 And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
Why Redeemer here instead of another title?
Why do you think John the Baptist is not named in these passages that seem to refer to him?
Are “preparing the way for him” and “baptizing him” synonymous in this passage?
Is the heavens opening here related to the heavens opening for Nephi previously?
What would the dove have meant to Nephi?
It seems that the living waters (v25) are tied to the waters in which the Lamb is baptized.
In Lehi’s vision, the stuff about Jesus and John the Baptist came AFTER the vision. Here, Nephi unifies them. What does this mean?
Does it surprise you that what Nephi is seeing here labelled the condescension starts with Jesus’ baptism and not his birth? Is it the baptism per se that is the condescension? If so, what does this teach us about Jesus’ baptism? About our baptisms?
28 And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.
In what way is it accurate to say that Jesus ministered “in great glory” during his earthly life? How does that description fit with the idea that what Nephi is seeing here is the condescension of God?
29 And I also beheld twelve others following him. And it came to pass that they were carried away in the Spirit from before my face, and I saw them not.
Do the multitudes in the previous verse and the twelve here map onto the various multitudes that Lehi saw?
What does that carrying away symbolize?
Is ‘following’ linked to the iron rod?
Jim F.: “Notice that the chronological order of the elements of the vision doesn’t correspond to the historical order. What does that tell us about visions? About historical order? Why might there be a break in the vision at this point, with a kind of end to the vision, followed by a new beginning in verse 30?”
30 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men; and they did minister unto them.
Was this a part of Jesus’ ministry? In what way? Why would it be significant enough to merit mention here?
31 And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.
How does this verse relate to the one before it?
Jim F.: “Why does the vision include this relatively lengthy description of the physical and psychological healings that Jesus did? How were they important to his mission of salvation?”
32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
Skousen reads “the everlasting God” instead of “the Son of the everlasting God” here.
Skousen reads “bare” instead of “bear.”
33 And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.
Why doesn’t Nephi see Gethsemane?
34 And after he was slain I saw the multitudes of the earth, that they were gathered together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb; for thus were the twelve called by the angel of the Lord.
Jim F.: “Why does Nephi see a vision of the crucifixion of Jesus, but not of his resurrection? “
35 And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Like the building Lehi saw, or the same building?
So the inhabitants of the great and spacious building = apostasy.
Why is “wisdom,” a generally positive concept in the OT, mentioned here in a negative way?
Why “house of Israel” and not “Jews”? What about the Gentiles?
Is “house” in “house of Israel” related to the idea of “building” in large and spacious building? If so, how?
In Lehi’s vision, they were pointing fingers and mocking. Here, they are fighting. Is that the same thing or a different thing? If it is the same, how does it shape your view as to what mocking and fingerpointing are?
It seems that what Lehi saw in the abstract, Nephi’s vision historicizes to the life of Jesus. But just reading Lehi’s vision, you wouldn’t necessarily make that connection. What’s going on here?
What about the building symbolizes the wisdom of the world?
Why does the world’s wisdom mock the people who partake of God’s love?
Why are the occupants of the building identified with the House of Israel?
36 And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Skousen omits “and it fell.”
Why does Nephi think this is pride, if the angel told him it was wisdom? What link does this vision make between pride and wisdom?
(How) is the fall of the building related to the fact that it did not have a foundation?
Why are nations, kindreds, tongues, and people–but not individuals–mentioned?
Why did Lehi’s vision not include the fall of the building?
Boyd K. Packer:
After the people of Lehi had arrived in the Western Hemisphere, Lehi had a vision of the tree of life. His son Nephi prayed to know its meaning. In answer, he was given a remarkable vision of Christ. . . . That vision is the central message of the Book of Mormon. Apr 1986 GC.
CHAPTER 12 (V16-18 ONLY)
16 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.
I don’t remember Lehi saying anything about that. What’s going on here? There appears to be more than one fountain–why didn’t we know about this before? The angel seems to equate the river Lehi saw with the “filthy fountain,” but Lehi didn’t do this. What’s going on?
Where do you see this river in relation to the tree, path/rod, and building? How do you kow?
Why is a fountain/river a good symbol for the depths of hell?
What does it mean to say that the depths of hell are in between the tree/path/rod and the great building?
17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.
Why are the mists a good symbol for the temptations of the devil?
“Blindeth” is an effect on the senses; “hardeneth” is an effect on the mind; “leadeth” is an effect on actions/choices. What can we learn from this?
Why are broad roads bad and narrow roads good?
Do they perish before they are lost? (Wouldn’t they get lost and then perish?) What might we conclude from this?
18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.
Skousen reads “sword” instead of “word” here–I think that fits the context much better. (And perhaps makes a reference back to the Laban story?)
Skousen reads “and Jesus Christ which is the Lamb of God” here.
Wait–didn’t he just learn that it was the world’s wisdom? And then conclude that it was pride? Why the introduction of vain imaginations? Are these three ways of saying the same thing?
What does “them” refer to?
Is the shift from great to large significant?
I thought the dividing gulf was the river–now it is the (s)word of God? What happened?
Why the time references?
1 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.
Again, I think L&L are much more righteous than we give them credit for. They are spending their free time trying to understand what the prophet was teaching. (They are going about it wrong, yes, but still . . .)
3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.
Review what he said. Why would it be hard to understand? Was it hard for Nephi to understand? (Is that why he seeks his own vision?) Is Lehi just a bad teacher, or are these things not understandable via human communication? Is Lehi wrong to try to communicate them? What others things are hard to understand unless you pray about them? Should we expect things to be that way?
It seems that a reluctance to inquire of the Lord is an almost-universal failing, as prevalent as it is foolish. Why do people act like this?
“Hard to be understood.” A couple of intriguing cross-references for this phrase are Ezek 3:6 and 2 Pet 3:16 in the KJV, and Mosiah 13:32 and Alma 33:20 in the Book of Mormon. Although these passages may be interesting from a theological, translational, or linguistic perspective, a more relevant passage in terms of what may have had an effect on Nephi is Isa 6:9ff where it seems Isaiah is told to preach things that “were hard for many people to understand,” as Nephi puts it in 2 Ne 25:1.
4 And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.
Grief–cf. to Lehi’s fear. Interesting reaction–he wasn’t angry or annoyed, but grieved. What should that teach us?
I’m surprised by ‘unavoidably.’ What happened to repentence?
Note that even given this golden opportunity to link his dream to his brothers, Nephi keeps them separate here.
5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall.
Is grief an affliction? Is this a good response? Is he saying he was worse off than Lehi, and was he right about that?
Why does his concern for his brothers fade away in this verse?
What does it mean to be overcome?
Are his afflictions great above all, or is he being overly dramatic here?
What people had he seen being destroyed? It would not have been his descendants in the great and spacious building if we operate on a strictly historicist reading (that is, that the people in the building were those in the old world that fought against the apostles). Does this verse demand that we broaden the scope a little and read Nephi’s vision as applying to his descendants as well?
6 And it came to pass that after I had received strength I spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.
I’m curious about the overcome-received strength process. What exactly happened? Was this divine intervention? (Did Nephi faint like a scandalized Victorian woman or what?)
There’s Nephi and his desires again. Why is that such a theme in this section?
Doesn’t v2 suggest that he already knows the cause of their dispute?
7 And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.
Why did they focus on this and not the other parts? Review the verses where Lehi explained this–was he unclear?
8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
J. Reuben Clark, “”If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” Citation
This strikes me as a pretty important scripture, one that we frequently use to point out that we don’t need to dispute things but should be able to figure them out through prayer. Is that the best reading of this verse?
9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
We usually assume that the “no such thing” is the meaning of the olive branches and Gentiles, but I wonder if they meant that the principle of “ask the Lord if you can’t figure out” was not known to them. Is this possible? Is it a better reading? I have to say that, judging by where Nephi goes in v11, I think it might be a better reading. But if I’m wrong about that and the traditional reading is better, then: What assumptions are L&L making? In what sorts of situations do we make similar assumptions?
10 Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
What work is “behold” doing in this verse? Is it Nephi wanting to call our attention particularly to what is being said?
Is it then a commandment to inquire of the Lord?
I have to say, this is not exactly my idea of good teaching and you’d never read this in an Ensign article. The questions seem unnecessarily combative, practically designed to put L&L on the defensive and guarantee a few more degrees of heart hardening. Is Nephi having a fail here?
11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.
Skousen reads “thing,” not “things,” here.
Bruce R. McConkie quoted this verse and then said, “It is the right of members of the Church to receive revelation.” Apr 1971 GC.
Note carefully all of the conditions in this verse: how and why do they work together?
Is the principle in this verse a universal truth?
12 Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?
Wait–isn’t this exactly the wrong thing to do? Aren’t they supposed to ask the Lord, not have their brother explain it to them? (that’s the process Nephi used and that is what Nephi advocated above? Is this a fail? How does this verse compare to Lehi’s explanation?
Does the “which was in our father” change your understanding of the visionary experience in this instance?
From this book:
A Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken
B concerning the natural branches of the olive-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles. And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
C And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
D Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord?
E How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
F Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—
E If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing
that ye shall receive,
D with diligence in keeping my commandments,
C surely these things shall be made known unto you.
B Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree,
A by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father;
I find this interesting, because it puts the focus of the passage on remembering, not on “Have you inquired?” as we usually read it. (In the narrative, however, this does seem like an odd place to have this structure, I admit.) Focusing on “remembering” then puts an entirely different spin on “knowing” and “asking,” I think.
13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed—
How does Nephi know all this? If he knows this, why did he need more help with the vision?
14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.
What teachings in this verse are important for us? What would have been important for the Nephites and Lamanites?
15 And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God?
Why does Nephi switch to asking questions here?
What do you make of the mixing of rock, vine, and fold?
16 Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree.
Skousen reads “numbered,” not “remembered” in this verse. Does that have any relation to the numberless concourses in Lehi’s vision?
17 And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.
How does “for the very cause” relate what comes before and after it?
18 Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
19 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake much unto them concerning these things; yea, I spake unto them concerning the restoration of the Jews in the latter days.
20 And I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah, who spake concerning the restoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel; and after they were restored they should no more be confounded, neither should they be scattered again. And it came to pass that I did speak many words unto my brethren, that they were pacified and did humble themselves before the Lord.
Skousen reads “speak so many” instead of “speak many,” which I find hilarious–he fillibustered them!
What does “confounded” mean? How is it different from scattered?
Pacified is interesting. Humbled is interesting. Preaching Isaiah at someone having an effect on them besides putting them to sleep is really interesting. (Again, I’d like to point to some evidence for the basically decent orientation of L&L.)
21 And it came to pass that they did speak unto me again, saying: What meaneth this thing which our father saw in a dream? What meaneth the tree which he saw?
Skousen reads “the things,” but it is conjectural. (Wish I could read his explanation of why . . .)
Why do they call it “this thing” first and then call it “the tree”?
Is there a relationship between the whole olive tree/branches thing and the tree? Do L&L assume that and, if so, is that a mistake on their part?
22 And I said unto them: It was a representation of the tree of life.
Why doesn’t he go into the whole city-virgin-child and love of God angle with them? He nattered on and on about the branches until I was, frankly, quite bored, but this is, to me, the good stuff and he hardly says anything about it. He answers their next question at good length, as well. Why short this one?
Does he really answer the question? Isn’t the tree of life a representation for something else?
23 And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?
Can you discern why they are asking about this now?
Is it significant that Nephi asked for “the interpretation” but they ask for “the meaning”?
24 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
NB the link made between “hearken” and “hold fast.” What does this teach us about the word of God?
“They would never perish”–is this entirely true, given that some people fell away -after- eating the fruit?
25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.
NB in Lehi’s vision, not giving heed to the finger pointers was crucial; here Nephi tells them what they should pay attention to.
Why does Nephi doubly emphasize the efforts he went through here?
26 And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?
Again, I am increasingly uncomfortable by this process: Nephi prayed and got more information about the vision; Nephi told his brothers to ask the Lord for more information, and yet this entire passage is something else entirely: they ask Nephi and *he* explains it to them. What is going on here?
27 And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.
This is very interesting to me–a commentary on Lehi’s weakness and/or limitations?
“Swallowed up” is interesting . . .
28 And I said unto them that it was an awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God.
29 And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked.
So this is another level: in addition to Lehi’s family drama and Nephi’s history, this is using the vision as a guide to the afterlife. See this for more on this.
I’m curious about the idea of something being “prepared” for the wicked. We know that plan of salvation was “prepared” for those who would repent . . .
30 And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.
It is bright flame but also filthy river?
Why is the justice of God described as being “bright”? What does this imply?
Is this related to the flaming sword the cherubim use to guard the tree in Eden?
Why would this fire ascend to God? Does that link it to the incense of the OT temple, which was (usually) a symbol for prayer? If so, how would that work, exactly?
31 And they said unto me: Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?
Why would they ask this?
Is the body tormented in the days of probation? What do they mean by this? Are they accurate?
Are they offering three options for understanding it, or two?
32 And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.
33 Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.
34 But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.
35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.
Skousen traces an enormous (for the BoM) number of changes in the word that we have here as “preparator”: “prepriator,” “father,” “foundation,” and “proprietor” (which is his choice, even though it is conjectural). Which fits best and what does that teach us about the devil?
Skousen reads “soul of man” instead of “souls of men” here.
I have to admit that this entire conversation makes me a little uncomfortable since it doesn’t mention repentance or the atonement. Why doesn’t he mention the other preparations that have been made–the Savior? Is this a Nephi fail?
36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.
Skousen reads “separated” instead of “rejected” here. I think that fits better.
Skousen reads “of” instead of “above” here.
(1) The relationship between Lehi’s vision and Nephi’s vision. I think the norm is to read them as just one vision, but I think the differences are significant and fascinating. Joe Spencer explains why it makes sense to separate them here (second paragraph). Lehi is in an interactive dream, while Nephi is an observor. Lehi describes the dream as all about his family; Nephi’s is about the broad scope of sacred history. What does it teach us about visions and heavenly communication to know that the same crux of visionary material could have different functions? Is it fair to say that Lehi has a vision about family and Nephi has one about history? If this is indeed the case, why? And why are the visions so similar? Given that this is one of the first big chunks of material in the BoM, it and its interpretation has a large impact on the reader. So what kinds of effects do the experience of interpreting two similar-but-not-identical visions have on the reader? What do we make of the fact that Nephi wanted to see what his father saw, but actually ends up seeing (and interpreting) something quite different? It seems to me that one thing that is going on here is that Lehi interprets the symbols as a family drama and Nephi as history and this makes me think of the creation account as presented in the temple, which could also be interpreted as both a family drama and as a historical sweep. (I’d like to say a little more, but, you know.) Considering all of this, what do these two visions and their interpretations suggest about the proper parameters of interpretation–whether that is the interpretation of dreams or of any symbolic scriptures? This is a good article to read in conjunction with considering these questions because it teases out, from material we generally lump together, what belongs to Lehi’s vision and what to Nephi’s and it also includes ch12-14 in the mix. Two features in Nephi’s vision not found in Lehi’s are (1) verbal interaction with the divine guide and (2) emphasis on desire. Why do these differ between the two?
(2) Why bother with symbolic visions at all? What benefit would it have had for Lehi, for Nephi, and for the reader over just a straight (strait?) presentation of the facts? What do these visions teach us about interpreting the scriptures?
And just for fun:
Harold B. Lee:
“Oh, I’m not here to tell you that every dream you have is a direct revelation from the Lord – it may be fried liver and onions that may have been responsible for an upset nervous disorder. But … if we will learn not to be so sophisticated that we rule out that possibility of impressions from those who are beyond sight, then we too may have a dream that may direct us as a revelation.” — Harold B. Lee (1952) Citation (HT: Ardis)